Andrew Johnson – Ward 12 Forum Audience Questions
Andrew Johnson (DFL), is running for Ward 12 City Council. He participated in the October 19th Candidate Forum. These are his answers to audience questions that we were unable to get to.
- Describe how you have displayed leadership in the community.
- Please give an example of what you have done to improve your neighborhood.
- Identify how you plan to earn the respect of colleagues to create majority support for initiatives.
- If elected, how will you ensure that residents receive high-quality essential city services?
- The City has set goals to increase cyclist and pedestrian traffic in the coming years. How will you work to ensure that Ward 12 residents benefit from these initiatives?
- What are your thoughts on streetcars? How can transportation be improved in the next four years?
- Will you push for body cameras on police if the department says they aren’t ready?
- What is your stance on police involvement in foreclosed homes?
- What have you done and what do you plan to do to improve equality?
- Do you support women’s reproductive choice and gay marriage?
- Backyard fires can affect quality of life for some residents. Do you support rules that would limit or eliminate backyard fires?
- Small businesses in the 12th Ward can face heavy bureaucratic load from the City of Minneapolis. Specifically, how would you streamline city regulations to make Minneapolis a more small business friendly place?
Editor’s Note: Response forthcoming.
2. Please give an example of what you have done to improve your neighborhood.
Working to revitalize East Lake Street is one of my bigger accomplishments on the Longfellow Community Council. I brought together over 40 active residents and several organizations to work on projects related to the commercial corridor. I led the efforts, but make no mistake, a leader does nothing by him or herself, they only help to enable the potential in others and work towards a vision. This meant that our initial meetings were brainstorming where everyone listened and shared their ideas, where we formed consensus and identified mutual passions. This led to the formation of an arts/events team and a development team. We worked to serve as a tipping point on the street, working on everything from reaching out to vacant building owners to host temporary popup art galleries, to pushing for action on the old Molly Quinn building (which is now being turned into a Sonora Grill). We reached out to Roosevelt High School students to talk about mural projects, and helped secure funding for Longfellow Market (not to mention getting the name changed to Longfellow Market as part of a community branding strategy). These efforts have led to a resurgence of activity along East Lake Street.
3. Identify how you plan to earn the respect of colleagues to create majority support for initiatives.
I am no stranger to working with a diverse group of people and perspectives to build coalitions and support for initiatives, as I have done on the Longfellow Community Council. I have also established good relationships with most of the city council members, returning and new, who I will be working with. What they tell me is that my expertise in technology, my Fortune 50 experience, and depth of knowledge in the community, will be valuable assets that make me the go-to council member on many initiatives.
4. If elected, how will you ensure that residents receive high-quality essential city services?
I have nearly a decade of experience working for a Fortune 50 company and have focused on service improvement while also lowering costs. I have been able to do this by leveraging technology, an intense focus on data and outcomes, and maintaining a comprehensive understanding of the organization and services it provides. Bottom line? I do my homework, ask tough questions, consider new ideas, work with others, and exercise leadership to get better results.
So, for instance, I want to know how many potholes the average street has, how many the worst street has, how long it takes to fill a pothole once reported, how long the fill lasts, what the cost is, how satisfied the residents are with the service, the path to report potholes, what internal processes look like, how our teams function, how these compare to other cities, what our projected repairs needs are going to be, what material sciences and standard improvements are in the pipeline and how they will impact our work, and what ideas the workforce has to improve service. With all this information, we can evaluate process improvements to better the outcome for residents while finding ways to reduce cost.
5. The City has set goals to increase cyclist and pedestrian traffic in the coming years. How will you work to ensure that Ward 12 residents benefit from these initiatives?
Our society and transit preferences are changing, and bicycle infrastructure is increasingly in demand. When we consider road reconstruction that will last for more than 50 years, we must be thinking about the needs of the community decades down the line, not just today.
I have worked on the Minnehaha Avenue reconstruction project to increase community engagement and participation. I want to see protected bikeways, as they have been shown to increase business activity, boost property values for residents, get bikers out of the way of cars, and increase ridership by providing a better experience. I used our campaign to educate residents at their doors on these benefits and to build support for that feature. I pushed on our partners at the county and worked with bicycle organizations such as Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition. While protected bikeways have been ruled out for this road by the county (due to safety concerns regarding Minnehaha’s diagonal alignment), I will continue to advocate for protected bikeways on future road reconstruction projects across the city.
As for pedestrian traffic, I am a fan of Complete Streets practices, which make walkability and environment a focus. We want walkable communities, and as our city grows, we want development projects and public infrastructure to reflect and value that.
6. What are your thoughts on streetcars? How can transportation be improved in the next four years?
Where one stands on this issue is often based on their perspective of public transit. There is one perspective that sees public transit as getting existing patrons to where they need to go. The other perspective views public transit as part a community’s ecosystem, with the ability to influence private development, increase economic activity, affect the behavior of other transit modes, and attract new ridership. I view public transit as the latter, which is also to say that I prefer modern streetcars over Bus Rapid Transit due to the benefits they provide beyond getting existing patrons where they need to go. That said, the most important question regarding modern streetcars is funding. I do not want to see our property taxes go up in order to reintroduce modern streetcars. This leaves us with options such as Tax Increment Financing districts in underdeveloped corridors, which I would be interested in exploring as a funding source in conjunction with federal urban-transit funding incentives. I also support improvements to our bus system that would improve the quality and speed of service.
7. Will you push for body cameras on police if the department says they aren’t ready?
I support implementing police body cameras and support efforts to fully develop policies and procedures regarding them. That said, I won’t tolerate unnecessary delays. Other cities have implemented these cameras with great success, drastically reducing frivolous complaints against officers while also reducing officer use of force. These cities have already gone through the challenges of developing policies, which we are able to adopt and improve upon given the lessons they have learned. It’s also very relevant to note that I have previously worked on a technology proof-of-concept team which developed and launched many pilot programs that went on to full-implementations.
8. What is your stance on police involvement in foreclosed homes?
I have already publicly stated that no Minneapolis Police resources should be used to enforce foreclosures and evictions, or to disperse peaceful protesters who stand up for the rights of homeowners. Once in office, I will work with fellow council members and our new mayor to pass directives stating such. Police should be addressing the serious crimes in our communities along with working to improve their social presence and build relationships.
Editor’s Note: Response forthcoming.
11. Backyard fires can affect quality of life for some residents. Do you support rules that would limit or eliminate backyard fires?
When I first heard this idea several years ago, I admittedly had the reaction that many do, defending our recreational fires without much thought. I have listened and learned however and now feel somewhat differently. Wood smoke is so incredibly harmful. Ordinances are rarely enforced which exacerbate the terrible experiences for some residents, such as burning within 25 feet of buildings, doing so after 10pm, and even burning on days of poor air quality. Further, I have met residents who suffer debilitating health consequences as a result of their neighbor’s recreational fires. Surely we can strike a better balance. That may mean requiring online same-day permits, better enforcement of ordinances, and greater restrictions. I am not at the point of supporting a ban on recreational fires, but other cities such as Denver have done so and it’s a discussion we should have. A quick Google search yields some great information on the health consequences of wood smoke for those interested in reading more: https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/
12. Small businesses in the 12th Ward can face heavy bureaucratic load from the City of Minneapolis. Specifically, how would you streamline city regulations to make Minneapolis a more small business friendly place?
Editor’s Note: Response forthcoming.